10 September 2010

Better Sweaters Make Beautiful Beasts

It isn’t a prequisite of art that it must make one smile, but certainly artist Elaine Bradford must have one on her face when she comes up with her ideas. One could almost go a step further and argue that there may have been just a little bit of playfulness involved too.  Art and playfulness can make good bedfellows (for a number of reasons) and that is certainly the case here.

Bradford’s artistic world is imaginary – and is inhabited with its own wildlife.  Yet in this world perhaps the weather is known for its sudden inclemency.  Her animals are the customers of a bespoke clothes maker who painstakingly crochets sweaters and other garments for them.

And as with any imaginary worlds there are more worlds within.  The horn of this antelope is extended - and he proudly wears his imagination as well as his crocheted apparel on the outside.  A closer look reveals that his benevolent gaze is directed towards the protected home of a family of pandas.

Bradford is mostly known for this work and the absurdity of the idea led her to create a Museum of Unnatural History where the animals could be displayed.

There is some irony, not to mention satire here.  Anyone who has visited a museum or a stately home replete with its collection of long dead animals, taxidermied and mounted can probably recall the stale taste of dust and the sombre and silent reverence that accompanies such displays.  Perhaps these animals should never have had their lives cut short to adorn the buildings of man.

Yet their lives were destroyed so why not return to these shells a certain joie de vivre?  It isn’t so much reanimation as rehabilitation.

Yet despite this new lease of life (or perhaps because of it?) the animals have managed to escape from their installation at least once and found themselves at one with nature again.  Even though their own form might not be accurately described as natural.

All of this must have taken a great deal of time – not to mention yarn.   Based in Houston, Texas perhaps Bradford’s largest piece is her elephant in a sweater (below) which has echoes for me of Babar (although that is probably my imagination).  She is a MFA (California Institute of the Arts) and her work has been exhibited in many venues around the US.

Image Credit Flickr User esbradford
Kuriositas would like to thank the artist, Elaine Bradford, for her kind permission to reproduce the above images.  Please visit her Flickr photostream and her website where you will find many more examples of her work.